Clinton athletic director Jeff Spiwak wants to qualify his statement before stating his opinion regarding what the fall sports season might look like.
“Look,” Spiwak said. “Nobody really knows anything about what’s going to happen in August and September.”
That much we know is true. Rewind time three months, and we are in the midst of basketball season, the wrestlers are thinking about the Kohl Center and there’s hardly a peep on Twitter about the coronavirus.
So, while none of us can correctly see what the future holds 90 days from now, Spiwak does have some thoughts on what might occur.
“I see one of two things happening in the fall,” Spiwak said. “We go back in the fall in a non-traditional way, that’s not completely online, but at least in some fashion is distanced. If we go back all the way, with no restrictions, then I would fully expect to shut down again in the winter during flu season. If you look at the behavior of the virus and how people are reacting to it, it’s my belief that if we don’t do it right the first time, we’re going to have to shut down again.”
Those are sobering words. What does that mean in terms of the fall sports getting started? After all, the first day of football practice is supposed to begin August 3.
“If we are looking at Gov. Evers’ bounceback plan, nobody is allowed on school grounds before July 1,” Spiwak said. “That automatically puts you at a deficiency for fall sports, because there are contact hours and camps and things that kids are missing out on.
“And even if we are able to start on time, that would mean we have reached phase three of the plan. That would limit gatherings to 50 people. At that point, you’re going to have get very creative with how you administer practices with both football and volleyball. You’d have to have small groups coming in at a time to make that work.”
And that’s just for practices. Unless regulations are modified, it seems Wisconsin has a long way to go indeed before students are going to compete.
“With phase three, holding competitions are just a non-starter,” Spiwak said. “You have to get beyond that in order to be fully back. In a perfect world, we’d be back playing sports in the fall. I just don’t see it happening with a traditional season.”
What about having competitions with no fans?
“High school sports are about the community,” Spiwak said. “We are different than pro sports in that regard. I think it would be pretty darn depressing to play a football game on a Friday night with no fans in the stands. But anything is open as far as possibilites at this point.”
Spiwak, the most successful football coach in Clinton history before resigning to concentrate on athletic director duties, said it’s his former sport where he harbors the most concern.
“The summer is so critical to the skill development and training to every sport, but especially football because it holds the most inherent danger,” Spiwak said. “I know here, everything for our football players is really regimented in the summer. I would be concerned about kids being ready to play in the fall after not doing anything all summer. I can guarantee you certain things will be happening at some schools that are against the rules, but there’s nothing we can do about that.”
Spiwak said losing spring sports didn’t have a huge impact on the department’s budget, but it would be a different story with fall sports.
“Our spring sports all operate in the red,” Spiwak said. “Losing them from a revenue standpoint wasn’t a big deal, because we don’t charge admission. And we’ve taken some of those savings to do things to honor our senior spring athletes. We made banners that are displayed downtown and those weren’t cheap. I would say the savings we had for the lack of spring sports, we’d hope to allocate some of those funds to sports, but most will go to the general fund. COVID has put every district in a huge hole for the next one to two years, and we want to save for things that are frankly more important than sports.”
“When it comes to the fall sports, football operates in the black, so we’d be losing the gate and concessions. That would be a drop in the bucket for our overall school budget, but it would certainly make an impact at the department level.”
The Clinton School Board made the decision Wednesday night to compensate spring sports head coaches at 100 percent and assistant coaches at 50 percent, a decision which greatly pleased Spiwak.
“I’m proud of the school board,” Spiwak said. “They made a great decision to honor the commitment that these coaches give our kids year-round. It shows we value not only the coaches, but the extracirricular activities as well.”